FLASHBACKS: FROM THE FLAMINGO OPENING TO STREISAND’S $1,500 TICKET
December 26, 1946: Mobster Bugsy Siegel opens the Flamingo hotel/casino with a star-studded bash featuring Jimmy Durante, Xavier Cugat, George Raft and George Jessel. The 40-acre, $6 million complex is regarded as the first step toward the glamorous future of The Strip. In 2005, Australian billionaire Kerry Packer, a legendary Las Vegas high roller known to play hands for $200,000, died at the age of 68. Longtime MGM Resorts executive Bobby Baldwin, told me Packer “dwarfed the other guys (including noted whales the Sultan of Brunei and Adnan Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian arms dealer). Kerry played higher, and he played for 40 years.”
December 27, 2000: The World Wrestling Federation throws in the towel in Las Vegas, a day after selling its 200-room hotel near the Strip. The WWF bought the building in 1998 after Debbie Reynolds’ hotel/casino went bankrupt, intending to develop a wrestling-themed resort. Today it’s a Clarion Hotel.
December 28, 2000: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman take a post-midnight private ride on The Big Shot, the popular terrifying coaster atop the Stratosphere Hotel. Five weeks later Cruise files for divorce, and a photo of that ride – one of the last of them happy together – becomes a hot item.
December 29, 1957: Singers Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme marry at the El Rancho Hotel. They perform together, often in Las Vegas, and stay married for more than 50 years.
December 30, 2007: Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z opens the 40/40 Club, an upscale restaurant/sports bar at the Palazzo, with a celebrity-packed gala featuring Barry Bonds, Lebron James, Al Sharpton, Alex Rodriguez and many others. It closes eight months later.
December 31, 1993: Barbra Streisand makes her first public concert appearance in 27 years, a lavish show at the MGM Grand. The two-night event is released as a film and leads to a long concert tour – with ticket prices up to $1,500.
—Researched and written by Mike Precker